“We are in Europe, but not of it”, from Churchill to Cameron: British Exceptionalism now threatens the entire EU Edifice

Juncker points the finger to Cameron during the EU Heads of State or Government on 23 September 2015 in Brussels discussing how to deal with the refugee crisis and its root causes. From left to right, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and David Cameron, UK Prime Minister (European Council TVNewsroom, 23/09/2015)

Juncker points the finger to Cameron during the EU Heads of State or Government on 23 September 2015 in Brussels discussing how to deal with the refugee crisis and its root causes. From left to right, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and David Cameron, UK Prime Minister (European Council TVNewsroom, 23/09/2015)

It all began back in January 2013 when one ambitious politician promised the world in order to get elected. Once elected, chaos reigned when he realised that his promise is hard to accomplish. While this is the life’s story of most career politicians in this world, for David Cameron things just seem to have turned too complicated recently.

Cameron’s stagnant renegotiation

When the incumbent UK Prime Minister promised in 2013 to hold a UK in or out the EU referendum before 2017, he wasn’t at all sure he would win the elections two years later and nor that he would be able to estimate the unpredictable effects of this endeavour. The biggest problem of Mr Cameron is that he will ask sooner or later the UK voter to decide on whether she wants the country to stay in the EU or leave it based on the vague arguments he declared two years ago.

Those topics are still focused on the popular limitation of welfare benefits for EU immigrants living in the UK, the increased veto power of the member states’ parliaments, the distance kept from the “ever closer union” and less regulations for City’s financial services. Bizarrely during the past two years nothing has changed except for the Premier’s commitment to present his “4 four point plan” at the EU Summit planned at the end of 2015.

Brussels craves for it

While Mr Cameron refuses to reveal any details of his “renegotiation demands” towards Brussels it seems that his EU counterparts can’t wait to see the concrete proposals coming from the other side of “La Manche”. Recently Michel Sapin, French Finance minister has said to FT on the topic: “I understand that they want a better dialogue between those in the eurozone and those that are out. That makes sense,”… “They want to simplify rules. We agree too. But surely this alone can’t explain the deep motivations of the UK. We’re struggling a bit there. We’re not the only one in Europe.”

Moreover, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, Didier Reynders also argued: “We are ready to discuss a lot of things. But the next step is to receive from the UK some proposals. What are the real requests?,”…“We don’t ask [for this list of demands]. But if they want some answers we need to have a real discussion with member states. If you want to change the evolution of the EU that means having some concrete proposals to discuss.”

Mr Pierre Moscovici instead, European Commissioner for Economic Affairs has stated as well to the FT regarding the British government’s silence: “We must enter into specific matters but we are not yet there. It is clear. The Commission will play its role in order to keep Britain in the EU.”

Yin & Yang

While the British Premier is eager to renegotiate a better position with the EU, only that he doesn’t act upon that, the IN and OUT campaigns are naturally heating up, polarising the British electorate. Last Monday the “Britain is Stronger in Europe” campaign was launched in London, led by Mr Stuart Rose, ex-CEO of Marks and Spencer, creating a powerful Pro-European wave in the country. The campaign is openly endorsed by various famous political figures of the country like Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, John Major and others, together with some prominent business people like the CEO of Easyjet, BT etc.

On the other hand, the “Brexit lovers” have been contemplating their campaign messages in favour of Britain leaving the EU for quite some time now. The name of the campaign goes as simple as “Vote Leave”, and is heavily supported by the all mighty eurosceptic conundrum composed by UKIP, and other Anti-EU lobby groups like TaxPayers’ AllianceConservatives for Britain, Labour LeaveBusiness for Britain etc. All of those are represented by well-known political personalities in the UK like Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and more. Their mutual scope is to break the EU, or even the UK as some critical minds would say. Certainly if the UK leaves the EU the “Kingdom” could as well stop being “United”, since the Scottish and others have traditionally flirted with the proud idea of going solo.

British Exceptionalism

Nevertheless, what is important here is to see how the whole referendum promise or procedure is deeply rooted in the basics of Britain’s mere existence. Following the 1975 referendum who judged positively UK’s membership in the then European Economic Community (EEC), there has been a fierce debate cultivating in the country around its fate in the European block and later the monetary union or Schengen area. The UK has undeniably kept distance from some major developments in the EU along the way like the faulty Eurozone project, not just out of business or political motives. It certainly is a cultural thing after all.

They think they are special

Various political scientists have widely spoken about the British “superiority” or “exceptionalism”, which is hardwired in the culture of this nation. Be it due to the once all mighty empire that was shrunk into an island or due to the birthplace of the globally used English language, the UK is special and will always be.

One should consider that although the UK has paved its own way slamming the door at the EU in various cornerstone projects, there will be always room for more “exceptionalism” for the people to buy and hence the electorate to vote. Mr Cameron played it all in with this referendum promise knowing that the British citizen will always want to vote in a referendum deciding on how special she is, even in 100 years from now. After all, Winston Churchill once said about his country: “We are in Europe, but not of it”.

Aeolus’ wings

The UK In or Out referendum was a simple political trick for Cameron to win the elections, trying to be close to UKIP extremist cries but at the same time distant enough. It remains to be seen though whether this trick or gamble he took this 65 million people nation on, given the omnipotent inherent cultural roots it maintains, it will end up in his resignation or even worse the break down of the EU or even the Kingdom (once United).

Apparently the Torry leader has released “Aeolus’ wings” and he has better put them back in the sack soon or pay the dear consequences.

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